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Why Rising Star Cho Gue-sung is Gaining European Interest

Cho Gue-sung, the Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors and Korea national team rising star, is gaining significant interest from teams in Europe but why is there so much interest in the forward? Tom Bolger takes a look at Korea's number nine.

The World Cup really brought Cho Gue-sung into the spotlight and gave him the platform to show the entire world what he is capable of, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. Many fans of K League and the Korean national team were disappointed to see the striker not getting to start against Uruguay in the first group stage game at the World Cup, but he eventually came on in the 74th minute in the 0-0 draw with the South Americans. It was a solid performance from the whole team and Korea went in to face Ghana with high hopes. Cho scored two great headers assisted by Lee Kang-in and fellow Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors teammate Kim Jin-su against the Black Stars. Despite losing the game 3-2, Cho really shone .

The match against Ghana was the game that Cho will remember for the rest of his life. This was his breakthrough, a chance to prove himself in the biggest sporting tournament in the world and an opportunity to attract more interest from Europe of which there was already some and for good reason.

Cho Gue-sung won the golden boot in the K League 1 after spending most of the season at eventually-relegated side Gimcheon Sangmu on loan fulfilling his mandatory military service duties. It did not take long for Cho to hit the back of the net this season as he scored a penalty in a 3-2 win against Pohang Steelers for Gimcheon. The next week he put in another satisfactory performance netting two against FC Seoul with some great finishing. Soon after, he scored against his parent club Jeonbuk in a 1-1 draw, impressing in the process. 

But it is not just Cho Gue-sung's finishing and ability to find the back of the net, his work of the ball is fantastic. For Jeonbuk he often drops back into the midfield and opens a lot of space for wingers with his physical presence and strength but also his unselfishness and willingness to get his team victory shows. He can be a nuisance for opposition defenders with his exceptionally good positioning and ability to drop back slightly and it often leaves defenders overwhelmed especially with Jeonbuk who press when they need to. Cho Gue-sung shields the ball very well and is very decent at dragging opposition players to wide areas leaving them exposed in the middle. With Jeonbuk this can be deadly, with the likes of Modou Barrow’s exceptional pace overlapping the defensive line. 

Cho's decision making is often particularly good as well. He times his presses well and when he drops back he has an eye for a through ball. He is certainly not afraid to test the keeper from range either. Having the striker in the team gives a manager so many options on what can be done with him and how to play him. 

Cho’s aerial threat is one of his main attributes, combined with his strength and height if given good service and crosses like he showed in the World Cup he can head very well. On his day, Cho is a defender's nightmare, but can he do it in Europe?

Obviously, if he goes to one of the top five leagues he will need to adapt quickly. Despite K League being a physical league that kind of suits Cho, somewhere like the Bundesliga is far more physical and intense and of course offers better quality opposition than in the K League. Many Jeonbuk and K League/National team fans will believe he can do it in Europe. European clubs will be far more interested in him due to his World Cup performance and ability to do quite well at that level of which he has never faced before, and it will also give them hope that he can adapt and learn quickly.

Cho Gue-sung's recent form for Jeonbuk as well surely has also gained interest from abroad. Since rejoining the team in September, he made an instant impact for Jeonbuk in a 5-0 away win against Daegu FC which was quite the shock as Jeonbuk’s form at that time was very inconsistent, which is a theme that you could use to describe Jeonbuk most of the time. Despite not scoring or even getting an assist, his work off the ball was yet again vital for Jeonbuk and his presence just being there really lifted the team. He made some great runs in that game, dragging defenders away from Barrow then shooting and, thankfully, it was provided to Barrow on a plate, but that goal was because of Cho Gue-sung as were others in that game.

Cho Gue-sung is a great asset for Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors as he is a different player from their other striker Gustavo, who does drop back at times because that’s how Jeonbuk tactically set up. Gustavo is not a bad player at all but Cho just gives Jeonbuk so much more while also being able to find the back of the net. Gustavo is played as more of a target man. 

Since Cho returned to Jeonju, Jeonbuk won all their games in the league except that crucial title decider against Ulsan in the Munsu which turned out to be costly. Despite that, Jeonbuk played decent football with Cho back when compared to before.

Cho Gue-sung was excellent in the FA Cup for Jeonbuk. The Green Warriors beat Ulsan 2-1 in extra time in the FA Cup semi-finals with goals from Barrow and Cho and he was exquisite in the final. Jeonbuk drew 2-2 with FC Seoul in the Seoul World Cup Stadium in the first leg in which he and Barrow scored again. In the second, in what is possibly his last game for Jeonbuk, Jeonbuk beat FC Seoul 3-1 winning 5-3 on aggregate. Cho was brilliant, scoring two very good goals along with Barrow.

Winning the FA Cup was a must for Jeonbuk after losing the league for the first time since 2016 and Cho Gue-sung was instrumental in that. His Jeonbuk legacy and how their fans remember him will be very fondly. His most memorable moment for the club was probably in 2020 when he was a youngster scoring two goals against Daegu FC to secure the league title for Jeonbuk in Lee Dong-gook's final ever K League match. Not bad for a 22 year old at the time.

There are many teams from Europe rumoured to be in for Cho Gue-sung and Jeonbuk fans will be hoping for a decent price. Manchester United and South Korea legend Park Ji-sung, who is technical director at the club, will likely lead negotiations. Cho is already a hero for Jeonbuk and is already in the World Cup history books, no matter where he goes there is an incredible player in Cho Gue-sung and he will be crucial for the national team going forward.

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